Author: Peter Wilson, Avian Vet
Pet birds often become ill. While most diseases of birds can affect every species, there are some species which are more prone to develop certain conditions. By being familiar with the various conditions which commonly affect a certain species, your veterinarian is able to formulate a diagnostic and treatment protocol which is most likely to result in a correct diagnosis and cure for your bird￢ﾀﾙs illness. While not listing every possible disease that may afflict your bird, the following discussion will make you more familiar with the specific problems your pet is most likely to encounter.
Budgerigars or budgies are known for developing various solid external tumours as well as internal cancer. A common cancer affecting the kidneys or reproductive organs causes a unilateral (one-sided) lameness that owners often mistake for an injured leg. Cnemidokoptic mite infestation (scaly face mite) is a frequent cause of crusty dermatitis of the cere (area around the nostrils over the beak), face and feet. Trichomoniasis (a protozoal infection of the crop and oesophagus) is also commonly found in budgies. This causes serious illness and death if not diagnosed and treated. Megabacteria, an organism that causes bleeding stomach ulcers is regularly diagnosed in budgies by routine faecal tests. It is also a very contagious disease that can be transferred by birds eating contaminated droppings. Since many budgies are fed a high fat diet which includes a lot of canary seed, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), is another common problem that is often fatal in budgies. Fat budgerigars often have problems laying eggs and egg binding is seen with some frequency in pet budgerigars.
Cockatiels, like budgies, are commonly adversely affected by being fed a high fat diet. Cockatiels should never be fed a sunflower seed mix. Fatty liver disease and associated vitamin deficiency are some of the most common health problems presented in cockatiels. Coagulopathy (blood not clotting) as a result of Vitamin K deficiency often causes fatal haemorrhages in cockatiels. Cockatiels also suffer from a range of reproductive disorders including chronic egg laying, egg binding, uterine infections and egg related peritonitis.
Canaries have several genetic maladies. Feather cysts, which require surgical removal, frequently occur in canaries. Cataracts are not uncommon. An unusual form of Cnemidokoptic mite (scaly face mite) infestation called Tassle-foot occurs frequently in these popular birds. Air sac mites that infect the trachea and air sacs, commonly contribute to respiratory disease in canaries. Pox virus often causes skin disease or death in canaries.
Love birds are often affected by Megabacteria, which left undetected will cause chronic wasting or acute haemorrhage and death in single pet birds or aviary collections. Behavioural feather picking and self-mutilation is often apparent in single pet love birds. They do better in pairs or in a flock situation.
Galahs are another species of parrots that suffer adversely from a high fat diet (specifically a sunflower seed mix). Many galahs on high fat diets develop fatty liver disease. Lipomas (benign fatty tumours) are commonly seen in galahs. Bumble foot (infected callouses) is another health problem in galahs associated with obesity and fatty liver disease. Galahs also suffer from many psychological problems that result in obsessive compulsive and stereotypic behaviours.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos
Cockatoos, like other large birds, often develop psychological feather picking that is difficult to treat. This type of obsessive compulsive behaviour requires a lot of extensive behavioural modification therapy. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Syndrome is another common problem affecting Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. These birds are also adversely affected by high fat, sunflower seed mixes which cause fatty liver and obesity health problems. Overweight, female cockatoos also develop many reproductive problems.
Some other common problems affecting pet birds.
Chlamydiosis is a common cause of respiratory disease in pet birds. It is also a zoonotic disease (infectious to humans)
Fibre impaction is an increasingly common problem amongst pet birds. Birds that chew on carpet, upholstery, cage covers, happy huts, tasselly toys, woven rope perches etc., develop indigestible fibre balls that cause blockages in the digestive system. Some of these impactions can be surgically removed. However, many go undetected and cause chronic wasting and death.
Metal toxicity can also affect household pets as well as aviary birds. There are many sources of metal within a home and aviary. Birds are very visual and are attracted to shiny things. Gold and silver jewellery dont harm your pet but other types of metal can poison and cause death.
This discussion merely highlighted some of the common problems that bring pet bird owners to the vet. A vigilant and observant owner can often pick up on the early signs that their pet is not well. With a pet bird, we need to get them to the vet as soon as owners notice they are not well. Birds are prey species and their instinct is to hide signs of being unwell, because sick birds attract predators. Often by the time owners notice their bird is sick, they are too sick to hide signs any longer. When in doubt about the health of your pet, make an appointment with your avian veterinarian